17 December 2008

Merry Credit Crunchy Christmas!

In time for Christmas, I thought I'd write a little on another Christmas away from home and especially how the Credit Crunch makes trees shorter, Santa's bags smaller and Christmas stockings lighter (and shopping actually affordable for me)!

After three years of Christmas in London, one tries to compensate for the snow, the dozens of traditional fairs where they sell gingerbread hearts, roasted almonds, mulled wine and chocolate-glazed fruits, the smell of freshly baked cookies filling the houses and the exchange of cookie tins whenever you visit someone's place! Having lived in Kings Cross in December 2006, there were not that many places to buy trees in Central London - not that our halls would have allowed real trees anyway (thanks to health and safety). And in Earl's Court it would have been a bit annoying to drag a tree up three floors, even though it would have been fun to chuck it out onto the courtyard on Knut! Besides, in London you always have to consider that you might move again in a few months, so a plastic tree, sad as it is, would have been the more economical option. "Luckily", there is Tesco which sells around ten different kinds of plastic trees (2 for £5!) in all shapes and sizes (with snow, without, Rocky Mountain or Alpine, gold, black, pink, purple, red, silver, white, slim or small enough to hide it in the oven in case of any unannounced health & safety officers knocking at your door, "Ho Ho Ho, have you been a good girl this year?"

So, this year I wanted a REAL tree. You know, one that smells like pine and sheds needles so you have the hoover out of the closet and next to it, on standby; one which you have to water daily but where the water in the saucer always ends up anywhere except in the tree; one which you never manage to make stand 90 degrees upright, despite years of practice! Surprisingly enough, local corner shops sold some for £24 for one that goes to my upper thighs, that's £1 a day in December until Christmas eve. Hm. But then you'd have to buy lametta, a stand, and they probably ask for your ID if you buy chocolate hangers filled with alcohol (never seen those around here actually, probably because the bottles are too tiny for the British). Long tree short, I stayed with my 10 cm USB-lit tree. Cost me £4 you can recycle it every year. Only problem: Got a computer virus this year, so... lights out, I'm afraid...

Other ways to create Christmas feeling: Use aroma oils with orange and cinnamon, get baking (interestingly, a Taiwanese woman recently offered me some awesome and really authentic Weihnachtsstollen!), ask visiting friends to import the traditional must-have Vanillekipferl, write Christmas cards (which I hardly ever did in Austria, as you see everyone anyway) and get Oxfam's chocolate advent calendar with organic fair trade Divine chocolate (tOTTally but awesome that it exists! I also quite like the Ramadan chocolate calendar my Muslim flatmate got me not least because it has six more windows!).

Hmmm, ideally there is also a weekend skiing get away in the Alps somewhere in my idea of a perfect Christmas but spending it in Thailand next to the sea under palm trees with some fresh Mango salad for the festive fish dish, Santa contributing to global warming because of doing his door-to-door service (finally motorised!) on a Tuk Tuk because Mae-Khao, the maroon-bellied mosquito quit being his local partner and went to join the "unusual surprises" industry, servicing the niche market of yummy foreigners.

In the meantime, I spend the run up to Christmas on the high street. Thanks to the credit crunch (the ONLY positive effect of it so far) the government dropped the VAT from 17.5 % to 15 % on 1 December, in time for Christmas sales which vendors try to stimulate as well by offering as much as up to 50 % or even 70 % discount, thereby starting the end of season sale early (I wonder if they are gonna give stuff away for free after Boxing Day). For someone who does not have enough money to spend on Christmas gifts AND ship them overseas but who has not bought any new clothes ever since LAST Boxing Day and most of whose clothes are ripping into their pieces, the motto is "Shop Ahoi!", especially if - bless the Euro - shopping in London costs just as much as at home! 'Tis the season!!!

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